San Diego mayoral candidates highlight their backgrounds and differences in Ocean Beach forum
The two candidates for mayor of San Diego — District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry and state Assemblyman Todd Gloria — outlined their policy goals in an online forum during the Ocean Beach Town Council’s September meeting last week.
Instead of offering simultaneous presentations, the candidates were slotted at separate times to answer the same questions and give opening and closing statements.
Bry and Gloria — both Democrats, though the mayor’s post is officially nonpartisan — were keen to distinguish themselves on key issues as well as their overall approach to governance as they appealed for votes.
Bry, whose district includes La Jolla, highlighted her past acts and current positions on issues affecting beach communities. For instance, Bry addressed short-term rentals in her opening statement, preempting the meeting’s first question and forcing Town Council President Mark Winkie to improvise another for her.
“I think you know I am very clear about what I will do with STRs,” Bry said. “I will enforce our existing law that prohibits them in our neighborhoods. ... Other cities enforce their law that is similar to ours. Our mayor can do it. It’s one of the reasons I’m running for mayor.”
Gloria, a former City Council member whose 78th Assembly District includes Point Loma and Ocean Beach, touted his long experience in public service for San Diego, particularly his stint as interim mayor from August 2013 to March 2014 following then-Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior toward women.
In discussing STRs, Gloria said that “anyone on the City Council today could offer legislation. The fact that they’re not says to me they’d rather make this a political issue at the expense of your neighborhood quality of life. ... Both the mayor and the City Council have been unsuccessful [in regulating STRs]. ... I think it’s time to try something new.”
When the topic turned to sidewalk vendors in public spaces such as Ocean Beach’s Veterans Plaza and the mandate for the city to conform to the state’s Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, Bry said legislation was drawn to do that in February. The state law, which aimed to decriminalize sidewalk vending, changed the way cities can regulate street vendors.
“I voted for it,” she said. “I expected it would come to the full City Council pretty quickly and it disappeared. I’ve been asking why and can’t get a straight answer. This is very normal though, not to get a straight answer at City Hall. That is something I desperately want to change.”
Gloria leaned on his record again, drawing parallels to the debate over food truck regulations that ended with an ordinance passed when he was mayor.
“When you seemingly have intractable issues where there are moneyed interests on both sides who are pushing extremely hard, I assure you that I can solve the issue,” Gloria said. “The difference is whether or not you have leadership that is willing to work and bring people together or if you’re going to have leadership that’s just going to hide out at City Hall and never take your calls.”
Each candidate spoke for 25 minutes. In closing remarks, the contenders portrayed their contrasting backgrounds as foundations on which voters can stand.
Bry argued that unlike a “career politician,” her multifaceted career as a journalist, small-business owner, tech entrepreneur, council member and founder of two nongovernmental organizations promoting women’s empowerment gives her the perspective and values of ordinary people making a living and raising families.
“There are clear differences between my opponent and me,” Bry said. “Clear differences in our backgrounds and in our policies, particularly about STRs, which impacts Ocean Beach greatly. ... My life has been about coming up with solutions, not making empty promises. I believe that my diverse career is an asset, and I’ve learned something from every part of my life.”
Gloria argued that government experience equates to government expertise that brings foresight to bear on problems threatening the city’s future.
“I’ve spent my entire career doing everything I can to make [San Diego] a better place to live,” Gloria said. “[Bry] is going to tell you I’m a career politician who only gives empty promises. Well, baloney!”
After reciting a list of accomplishments in various offices, Gloria added: “Simply put, I have the experience to get the job done. ... You saw me do the job of mayor for eight months under a different kind of crisis. I know I can do the job of mayor during this crisis.”
Friends of OB
Before the mayoral forum, Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, announced the formation of the Friends of OB in partnership with The Peninsula Alliance, a nonprofit group.
The purpose is to raise donations from individuals, businesses and other organizations to fund Ocean Beach’s Clean and Safe program, which focuses on crime prevention and quality-of-life issues.
“In the past, we’ve funded all of our activities in the Clean and Safe program through our special events: the Street Fair, Oktoberfest and just about everything that we do,” Knox said. “Since those have gone away temporarily [amid the COVID-19 pandemic], we don’t have those excess funds.”
One-time or monthly donations can be made via the website friendsofob.org, which was launched Sept. 25. People can make general donations or direct their contributions to one of the three elements of Clean and Safe: sidewalk power washing, trash receptacles, etc.; banners, landscaping, etc.; and business district security guards.
“We’re hoping that this will help us bridge the gap until we can have special events again and raise that money,” Knox said.